The Sun Valley City Council is offering the city’s police force more flexibility in charging a misdemeanor or an infraction, thanks to an ordinance revision it passed last week.
On Thursday, the council voted 3-0 to pass the ordinance revision and waive the three readings required for it to take effect. It will take effect once it is published as a legal notice. Councilwoman Jane Conard was absent.
The change means officers can make a judgment call on whether to charge a misdemeanor or infraction for minor offenses, such as “animal at large” incidents, according to a city staff report.
The penalty for a misdemeanor in Sun Valley is a fine of not more than $1,000 and a jail sentence of not more than six months, according to city code.
The penalty for an infraction is a fine of not more than $100, including court costs of $56.60, Police Chief Mike Crawford told the City Council on Thursday.
The Sun Valley Police Department sought the change and asked the Community Development Department to review the ordinances.
The city’s municipal code defines animals running at large and states that it’s generally unlawful for owners to allow their animals to run onto neighbors’ private property or onto streets, alleys, sidewalks, highways, vacant lots, school grounds or other public places.
Animals are considered a nuisance when owners “fail to exercise proper care and control” and they bark constantly, bother and intimidate passersby, chase cars, attack other animals, trespass on private property, and run at large on three separate occasions within a 12-month period. The owner has to have been cited on those three occasions.
It is also unlawful to fail to provide animals with necessary food and water, proper shelter, veterinary care, humane care and treatment, and protection to prevent discomfort.
The code prohibits keeping exotic wildlife and certain animals such as cattle, sheep, goats, swine, poultry, predators, game animals and other wildlife, unless a special permit is granted by the city.
Officers have the authority to impound animals and can now decide whether to charge a misdemeanor or an infraction for violations of those code sections.